Community rallies after fire destroys home built specially for disabled veteran in Massachusetts

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GRANBY, Mass. — A man who has already seen so much tragedy is trying to overcome obstacles once again.

bouchard-2Sgt. Joshua Bouchard served our country in the Marine Corps, but returned home to Granby, Massachusetts, six years ago after recovering from an IED blast in Afghanistan that led to him having his leg amputated and a spinal cord injury.

The nonprofit organization Homes for Our Troops designed and built a house specially for Bouchard so that it was accessible to his wheelchair. Unfortunately, a fire on Monday destroyed that home.

It was a scary night for the veteran.

“I honestly haven’t had this much excitement since Afghanistan to be honest,” Bouchard said.

It started when he smelled smoke, so he went outside to see what was up. He saw the smoke billowing from his garage. When he opened the garage door, he was knocked out of his wheelchair by an explosion caused by the gas tanks to his car and lawn mower.

But Bouchard quickly saved himself. “A combat roll, like you’re avoiding fire, which technically I was.” He then ran back in his home to save  both of his dogs.

He thanks his service for helping him survive.

josh-bouchard-1“I think my experiences in the military completely are what saved me, absolutely,” Bouchard said.

However, it’s not just his home that was lost in the fire; Bouchard lost his prosthetic leg, which cost about $15,000, as well as his three electric wheelchairs, which combined are valued at about $100,000.

When his friends, neighbors and community heard about the tragedy, they quickly stepped up to help.

Lee Lalonde, a local pharmacist, donated a wheelchair. Then, on a GoFundMe page set up by Bouchard’s sister, the donations started rolling in.

In just 12 hours $11,000 had been raised by about 200 people. In the comments, you can see that a physical therapist from the rehab department at the VA put in a “rush request” for a new wheelchair and prostheses. Another friend offered to match up to 10 donations of $25 each if her Facebook friends joined in to help. Someone even offered a couch.

“Joshua and our family are deeply saddened over the loss of this amazing home that has done so much for Joshua’s rehabilitation,” Bouchard’s sister, Suzanna, wrote on the GoFundMe page.

For now, Bouchard is staying with his father, but the community seems to be jumping in to do what they can to get him back to his life as soon as possible.

“Josh was going to do a run this summer with a motorcycle club from Boston,” Bouchard’s father, James said through tears, adding “what a crybaby I am.”

So what brought him to tears, exactly? Well, the club says they’re going to use the money they raise to buy Bouchard a 2017 pickup truck.